Written by: Dr. Stacy Frazier and Maya Boustani
Whether you are celebrating or lamenting the start of the school year, you may be looking for new ways to balance homework, meals, activities, and bedtimes. While the return to school can reintroduce helpful routines, it typically is accompanied by increasing demands that place considerable strain on families, who easily can slip into a pattern of conflict where harmony used to reign. The following strategies may help you Catch your Kiddos Being Good – a small step toward increasing compliance, strengthening self-esteem, and restoring family harmony.
•Attend to Positive Behaviors: Kiddos love attention, especially from their parents. While it’s easy to catch them breaking rules or ignoring directions, look instead for opportunities to acknowledge your child for direction following, kindness, or helpful behavior.
•Be Strategic: If you have several kiddos, try to catch each one doing something well. Drawing family attention to one child’s positive behaviors is likely to encourage their siblings to join in.
•Shape New Behaviors: Focus on behaviors that may be difficult for your kiddo. When you observe even small steps in the right direction, let them know.
•Find Your Style: Do you prefer high-fives or fist-bumps? Sing it loud or simple nod? Whatever your style, look for opportunities to shower your kiddos with spoken and silent praise.
•Be Specific: While high-fives and smiles go a long way to help kiddos feel good, children don’t always know what exactly they did well, so be explicit. For example, “Great job staying seated and focused on your homework!”
•Special Time: Try setting aside ten minutes each day for your kiddo to choose an activity for you to enjoy together. Minimize questions and directions, follow your child’s lead, and lavish them with attention.
•Family Tootles: Create a family culture where everyone looks for examples of kind and helpful behavior. Encourage your kiddos to “tootle” rather than “tattle” by reporting when their sibling has done something nice. Hang post-it notes to record tootles and celebrate together when you’ve reached a goal.
•Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Although it can be difficult to ignore annoying behaviors, paying attention to (even punishing) kiddos for minor offenses (like whining or clumsiness) may unintentionally increase their frequency.
So this year, while helping with homework, driving to activities, and preparing meals, remind yourself each day to catch a break, catch your breath and Catch Your Kiddos Being Good!
Stacy L. Frazier, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and mother of two (Alyssa, 12 and Sebastian, 10), and Maya M. Boustani, M.S., is a doctoral candidate and also a mother of two (Noor, 7 and Nayla, 5). Both work at the Center for Children and Families in the Department of Psychology at Florida International University.